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Kenyans Fearful US Problems May Affect Them - 2001-09-20

Fear is growing in Kenya that the country may suffer if the United States retaliates for last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

More than 200 Kenyans were killed when terrorists bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998. The man U.S. authorities have linked to that bombing, Osama bin Laden, has been named by U.S. leaders as a prime suspect in last week's attacks. Kenyans are now growing concerned that any U.S. effort to get Mr. bin Laden, who is now believed to be in Afghanistan, may again make their country a terrorist target.

Professor Peter Anyang' Nyong'o of the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi says Kenya's importance as a naval base for the United States puts it directly in the line of fire. "Supposing the U.S. retaliated," Mr. Nyong'o asks. "How far would the retaliation go? And supposing for example in that process the U.S. were to use Kenya as a landing base or something. The other side begins retaliating against those who have helped the U.S. We would definitely be involved in it."

Like many Kenyans, Professor Anyang' Nyong'o opposes a U.S. military attack, saying Washington has tried it before and it has not worked. "The danger of a military response is one, you are likely to hit the wrong target," he says. "[The U.S. bombed Sudan] after the bombing in Nairobi. If that happens this time, it will be on a wider scale than what happened in Khartoum and the destruction will be enormous and the resentment will be equally enormous."

Mr. Anyang' Nyong'o says that, if Osama bin Laden is found to be responsible for last week's attacks, he should be tried in an international court of justice.

At a recent conference in Nairobi, African scholars drew up a resolution calling for a global summit to discuss and eliminate the causes of terrorism. They are sending the resolution to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the African Union, and the U.S. government.